From the District Superintendent

Comfort and Joy

Posted 18 December, 2017 by Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster

Peppermint mocha, peppermint ice-cream, and "peppermint joy" ... Which one is different from the others?

You might guess that peppermint mocha and peppermint ice-cream are two of my favorite seasonal indulgences. But "peppermint joy"? What is that exactly? As a young child I thought the words to the chorus of a carol were: "oh, tidings of peppermint joy, peppermint joy, oh, tidings of peppermint joy."

Maybe the peppermint sticks made me think that. They were huge! They must have been an inch in diameter and perhaps a foot long; every child who had worn the short white robes and the large red silky bows in the choir received one after the annual candlelight carol service was over. Perhaps I simply misheard or misunderstood so that it made sense to me.

I still remember the shock I had as a young reader singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen from the hymnal for the first time and seeing the words: 'oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy."  I recall immediately feeling such a profound sense of embarrassment that I had not been singing the right words.

Appreciation for the gift of "comfort and joy" has dawned much more slowly in glimpses and snatches: a family gathered by an open grave for a funeral on Christmas Eve afternoon and then standing together at 11PM candlelight service, tears streaming down their faces; a nursing home aide gently straightening twisted bed covers for an agitated resident, while speaking calm, gentle words of assurance; sharing coffee and pleading prayer in the palliative care waiting room; hearing and believing the hard truths spoken aloud in workplace meetings, neighborhood protests, boardroom mandates, and legislative actions.

These times of national posturing, global anxiety, community needs, natural disasters, and personal concerns awaken the daily need for "tidings of comfort and joy". The scriptures bear witness:

Comfort, comfort my people! says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.

On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.

You have made the nation great; you have increased its joy.

They rejoiced before you as with joy at the harvest. (Isaiah 9:2-3a)

As do the words of Isaac Watt's carol:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come ...

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Rejoicing in the Savior's birth,